Thirteen hostages returned to this island nation Tuesday, recalling their 56-hour ordeal at the hands of mercenaries fleeing a failed coup attempt. Hundreds of people greeted them.

"It is a second life for us," said V.A. Vincent, second officer of the cargo ship Progress Light, which was hijacked by the fleeing Sri Lankan mercenaries Friday."We had lost all hope. The mercenaries were very ruthless," Vincent said.

Maj. Mohammed Zahir of the National Security Service, the Maldivian national militia, said seven bodies were found on the ship after the mercenaries gave up Sunday to two Indian warships 60 miles off the Sri Lankan coast.

"All of the victims were hostages shot by the mercenaries," Zahir said.

Fourteen hostages, including Transport Minister Admed Mujithaba, were flown to India on Sunday to be treated for injuries suffered before the mercenaries surrendered.

Officials said 14 people were killed and 40 wounded in Thursday's attempted overthrow of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The mercenaries fled after Indian paratroopers assisted Maldivian forces.

Hundreds of people crowded the half-mile long jetty in Male as the Indian frigate Godavari arrived.